Rewarding employees isn’t just a nice thing for companies to do. It could be the key to their success!

Employee turnover rate in the U.S. was nearly 20 percent in 2018. A lack of recognition was cited by more than a fourth of the people who quit their jobs.

Retaining good employees helps lower operating costs and is easier than you think. Employee Appreciation Day, March 1, is a good place to start. Take a look at these budget-friendly gift ideas for your staff:

Affordable Employee Appreciation gifts


Employees at art night

Hire an artist to give employees a fun lesson in painting or drawing. The event can be scheduled after hours, during lunch or on a weekend. Shawna Moser of ZURB said the company recently brought in a painting instructor to teach employees how to “channel their inner Bob Ross.”

“We’re a pretty active group and we love spending time together,” Moser said. “Over the years we’ve spent less energy on finding physical gifts and are focusing more on offering experiences to our team.”

ZURB also provided pizza and beverages for their staff and employees’ significant others.


Employee Appreciation Gift - Aluminum Water Bottle

Give a gift and reap long-term branding opportunities with personalized items for employees. Place your company name and logo on products your staff will use and enjoy.

Some of the most popular customized items for employees are water bottles, can coolers, engraved pens, stress balls, flying discs, sunglasses and cell phone chargers.

“Employees love things that are personalized or specific to them,” said Grant van der Hart, managing director of Anglo Liners. “Personalized mugs are a particularly good option, as everyone in the office will use a mug and appreciate having one.”

If your budget allows, employees also appreciate customized lunch bags, speakers, umbrellas, folding chairs and blankets.


Employee with Travel Pillow

This is a great idea for employees who travel a lot. Travel pillows are thoughtful gifts that can be used when traveling for work or on vacation.

Marli Crowe, founder/CEO of Crowe Career Services, said a travel pillow would be well-received because it shows you are attentive to your employees’ schedule.

“Although some employees enjoy traveling for work, it can get very tiring,” Crowe said. “A travel pillow gift shows that you appreciate what they do for the company and care that they are well-rested.”


Ross Employee Appreciation Award

Put some good, clean fun in your employee appreciation gifts with corny trophies and gift cards. Matthew Ross, co-owner and COO of RIZKNOWS, and his business partner hold an awards event each Employee Appreciation Day. It is based on The Dundies from the TV show “The Office.”

“Essentially, we give each employee a humorous award and a gift card,” Ross explained. “Our employees seem to get a kick out of it every year.”

The idea is to lighten the mood and keep morale high, he said. Last year, Ross was given the Toby Flenderson award. He concluded it was his business partner’s way of calling him “boring.”


Employer Appeciation on Linkedin Site

What’s more valuable than a material gift? Publicly showing respect for the work your employee does for your company. Jeanie Stanek of Northworks said material gifts can only go so far.

“The absolute best, budget-friendly gift a manager could give their employee is endorsing their skills and leaving a heartfelt recommendation on their LinkedIn profile,” Stanek said.

She noted that such a gift is free, has a tremendous impact and years later will still be appreciated as an investment in the employee’s career.


Custom Sports Bottle at Gym

You can never go wrong when giving the gift of good health! Paying annual gym membership dues for your employees is a kind way to say you have their best interest at heart. Plus, many fitness centers offer big discounts to companies who spring for employee plans.

Ketan Kapoor, CEO and co-founder of Mettl, said a gym or yoga membership can motivate and promote a personal and professional balance for employees.

“Gifting gym memberships can push employees to take care of their physical, as well as mental health — a thing of utmost priority in extremely stressful times like these,” Kapoor said.


Employees don’t always expect big rewards for their efforts. An occasional “thank-you” for completing a project or just helping the company forge ahead is always welcome. Employee Appreciation Day might be a good time for company leaders to find ways to reward their staff.

I hope our suggestions spark ideas that will make your employees feel valuable and appreciated!

Sources for labor statistics: Randstad and Compdata


Shelley Grieshop is a former newspaper journalist who earned more than a dozen Associated Press awards for her in-depth research and writing skills. In May 2016, she joined Totally Promotional as a creative writer. She currently writes company blogs about branding, marketing, logos, wedding planning and much more. One of her life goals is to teach people when to use hyphens and apostrophes.

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